After a four year absence, 24 is returning to TV in the form of a “limited series.” Shortened seasons for broadcast shows are popular right now. Big-network programs like Hannibal, The Following, Sleepy Hollow and Under the Dome are taking a page out of the British/Premium Cable model, offering shortened seasons of around 12-15 episodes without the traditional option of extending the season. 24 is embracing this model as well, cutting Jack Bauer’s “day” in half to (theoretically) tell a tighter story and keep costs down. How well 24 translates into 12 remains to be seen, but there is no denying of the excitement of having Jack Bauer back on the small screen.
As a limited run companion piece to our series-spanning Dead Series Discussions we—Patches, Zach, Jeff and MegaMix—will be posting reactions to each episode of Live Another Day as it airs. These “ReJacktions” are not as long or formal (ha!) as our other posts on the series, but instead give us a chance to add some reflections and observations for each episode. Once the season has ended, we’ll give Live Another Day a proper Dead Season Discussion before bidding farewell to 24. At least until Jack comes back again.
This week’s ReJacktion is focused on the fourth episode of Live Another Day, “Day 9: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.”
It contains SPOILERS for the entire series of 24 and strong language. Parental discretion is advised. Discussion occurs in real time.
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I think I will always remember this episode for the most incorrect statement ever made on 24, courtesy of White House Chief of Staff Richard Weed.
“That is not the same Jack Bauer you knew.”
I don’t know how to break this to you, dude, but there is only one Jack Bauer. That’s the Jack Bauer who puts his country before everything else. The Jack Bauer that stops at nothing to achieve what he believes to be the greater good. The Jack Bauer that lays waste to anyone who comes between him and that goal.
That’s the only Jack Bauer that’s existed since Teri’s death.
In other news…
1) We were tricked into thinking we were going to see President Heller do something cool. We rejoin him just in time to catch the ending of an address full of clichés so shitty they would embarrass a high school commencement speaker. However, it made all the MPs who were shouting accusations a few minutes earlier clap like seals. I can see them all nodding their heads thinking, “You know, he’s right. These terrorists DO want to do us great harm.”
2) Station Chief Navarro is not a person. He is a plot device given sentience by black magic and state secrets. I can’t think of another reason for him to fluctuate between competent boss and obstruction with a badge depending on what the story needs most at that moment.
3) I bet watching Crazy Eyes lose a finger would have felt weirder if I hadn’t just watched Game of Thrones.
4) I am not the only person with a crush on Yvonne Strahovski. But that’s bad because she was wrong about her husband, you see? I’m not sure if you’ve gathered that tidbit from her past yet. Next, Zach will accuse me of allowing my personal feelings to cloud my judgment of Live Another Day.
5) Do the writers think drones run on hopes and dreams and the blood of Middle Eastern innocents? How is Naveed going to take drones flying all across Europe to launch a coordinated attack on London? And why are American drones flying over Poland, Sweden, and Hungary. And why would nations with their own air forces allow American military aircraft to chill in their airspace? I will not rest until this show is ruined for everyone!
6. Longest. Decryption. Ever.
Of all of the things I will remember from this episode, I think the top of the list is the absurd ending to the Heller v. Parliament “story.” I suppose I should be glad that they didn’t just re-create the saddest presidential moment in the 24 arc (i.e. Wayne “sudden pain in my vein” Palmer’s “woopsies, gang, a nuclear bomby-womby went off in LA today, ahyuck!”), but the real President Palmer managed to have really powerful speech moments. Didn’t he? Tell me it wasn’t all just a dream…
In any case, yeah, that was laughable.
I also re-learned just how shitty Fox is (it’s Fox, right?) at developing “Next time on 24” vignettes. What did we see in this one? Why, President Heller talking about how there were 6 remaining drones (what happened to the other 4 me wonders?). But I was particularly struck by one thing: Jack was barely in the montage. In a commercial I saw the other day — Jack was barely in it. In this season, it feels, Jack has barely been around. I have a hypothesis that seems pretty gd simple: 24 is awesome when Jack is on the screen, and super shitty when he’s not. I decided to do a cursory analysis of this idea by recording the times Jack was actually on-screen for the following episodes:
- S03E18 — considered by all authors as one of the best episodes, this is the episode in S03 in which Jack is forced to kill Ryan Chapelle. Also going on in this episode: a raid on Saunder’s location and Michelle attempting to control the outbreak at the Chandler Plaza
- S06E19 and S06E20 — Jack rescuing Audrey or something. I don’t care. Rated the two worst episodes of S06 on IMDB.
- S09E01 and S09E04 — an episode I was more or less positive on, and an episode I thought was super lame.
There are a few things worth noting here — first, look at the “dry” spells — in all four episodes that are, in my opinion, sub-par, there are *long* droughts without Jack making an appearance. There is also this bizarre counter-reliance on “checking in” — making a sub-30-second stop just to see Jack doing… whatever he is doing right then?
To look at this info another way:
First, it’s clear that “the good one” pretty much blows everyone away in terms of total time jack spends on the screen (by over 10%), but the standard deviations of those appearances indicate that average length of time is pretty consistent — contrast this to s06e20 or s09e01, where the variance in length of appearance is huge, or s06e19 and s09e04, where the standard deviation is smaller but the number of appearances and average length of appearance is a good deal smaller.
It’s almost like they don’t know what to do with him…
Finally, a more pictorial representation of the above info:
This really tells the story, in my opinion. We have a large and normally distributed peak in the “consistent” episode distribution, indicating we check in with Jack often and for a while each time (about 2-3% of the episode each time, equivalent to 2ish minutes of just Jack doing stuff, at regular intervals (c.f. graph 1)), and one long piece (the final scene with RC cola). Contrast this to s06, where the (significantly fewer) Jack scenes are much shorter in duration, or S09 where they are all over the map. Keep in mind, too, that in that s03e18 episode, there was a ton of other interesting stuff going on! Some of the best drama in the whole series happens in that episode, and we still spent almost half the episode on just what Jack was up to. Why the hell are we spending 70% of our run time on *not* Jack?
This is all going to say one thing: just put Jack on the goddamn screen and it’ll all be okay.
Zach, I love you. When you get the chance, do this for every episode. I’m on board with your theory that 24 is better when we see more of Jack. I think Season 9 is also an example of my Season 6 theory that Jack is the most interesting part of 24 and when he’s not given anything interesting to do, the whole show sinks. This is perhaps more an indictment of the show’s ability to give us interesting supporting players, but anyway.
This episode is a perfect example. We spend at least two-thirds of the episode watching Jack watch an upload status bar slowly creep from 0-69%. That’s the definition of uninteresting. It completely goes against the excitement generated by the final moments of the last episode. This is the most static episode 24 has ever produced. Sure, Jack fires his gun and chokes a guy, but none of it is malicious, or intended to kill. Not that I want Jack just offing Marines left and right, but there’s got to be something else bringing balance to the boredom.
Add to that the Finding Forrester-ing of Heller’s speech (had to go with that Offscreen Moment of Awesome because I couldn’t find a youtube clip of the raft rescue fromWet Hot American Summer), the mysterious (even to the show’s writers) motivations of Adrian Cross, Mark and Steve both being obstacles and a crazily power-mad Marine Captain, and you’ve got another snoozer.
Thankfully, we also get hammer/chisel vs. pinkie, the continued emergence of FemBauer 2.0 and Heller and Audrey finally finding out about Jack. Even those moments can’t save this one, which feels like it’s treading water. This is a bad sign for a show that’s already 50% shorter than it usually is, and for one that’s only aired 4 episodes. With a legitimate terror threat finally on the table (drone fuel range aside), I’m still optimistic that we’ll get something more like classic 24 before the series is out.
Patches, if you like Yvonne in this, YOU NEED TO WATCH CHUCK!
Zach, in classic form (for me), I have absolutely no idea what any of those graphs stated, but I still got your point. Chart on, my friend.
Jeff, as long as you’re optimistic, I’ll stay that way as well.
So, did I enjoy anything about this episode? Let’s see…ummm…well…I liked the moment when Chloe told off Adrian in defense of Jack. I’m really enjoying the implicit trust/history between Bauer/O’Brian so far this season. It was always mostly implied in all of the other seasons, but they sort have to reestablish it this time around and I think they’re achieving it fairly well.
I also found myself enthralled with the conversation between President Heller and Jack. It felt to be a real storyline tying moment bringing in the days of yore. I liked that Heller seemed to trust Jack even if he doesn’t like the guy, especially in the moment where Bauer says regardless of how Heller feels, Jack never lied to him, because that’s probably true (I’m not a resident 24 historian [or general historian for that matter] so I can’t say for sure). BUT THEN, Heller goes against that and for me it felt TOO FUCKING CHEAP and EASY to complicate the story. It seemed out of character to me. Heller may be sick, but he doesn’t strike me as stupid.
My biggest complaint for the episode, other than those mentioned previously, would be the fact that there was an air duct into/out of the locked secure communications room that Chloe apparently didn’t know existed. So, Morgan just thinks to herself, “I’ve seen movies and TV where there’s always an air duct that goes right into where I want to do. Why not try this one?” Come THE FUCK on. BBBOOOOOO!!!
Has there been a less trustworthy position on the show than White House Chief of Staff? Mike Novick sold out Palmer to the 25th Amendment. Wayne Palmer boned the wife of David’s biggest donor. Walt Cummings committed treason. Vigo the Carpathian conspired to remove ‘Lil Palmer from office. Olivia Taylor murdered a dude. Rob Weiss and Mark Boudreau have at least gone behind the president’s back. Ethan Kanin’s the only straight arrow in the bunch. Which means, of course, that he got screwed over. It’s like Westeros in there or something…
Not that anyone cares, but the source code for making the above is on github.
Hey remember when TerrorBro needed “one hour” at the beginning of last episode? He needed that at the beginning of this episode too. I can’t wait to see how much longer they stretch things until we get to an imminent threat. Plus, is it just me, or does Chloe sound like she’s delivering lines at half-speed? Also, what’s up with the convenient air vent Kate uses? Also also, think Simone’s still on board with mommy dearest’s plan?
I really enjoy Belcheck. He seems to be the sort of sidekick Jack needs. I hope we get more background story with him and Bauer. It could play an interesting role in a storyline in the future I feel. Anyone else?